Strict Congregational Convention of Connecticut

Collection History

Strict Congregationalists, also known as Separates, arose after the religious revivals of the First Great Awakening of 1740. The denomination emerged in the frontier areas of eastern Connecticut before taking hold elsewhere in New England. Separate churches positioned themselves in opposition to Connecticut’s Saybrook Platform, which was adopted in 1743 as official Connecticut state policy. The platform created a state-sponsored consociation, a church hierarchy similar to a presbytery to which local churches were made to refer for new ordinations and other matters. The state also discouraged discrimination in the admission of church members, largely because civic rights such as office-holding were contingent upon church membership.

Strict Congregationalist adhered to the original Cambridge Platform which mandated that church members must “manifest their faith & repentance by an open profession thereof, before they are received to the Lord’s Supper, & otherwise not to be admitted there unto.” They believed they were upholding the Pure Church of the early Puritans, a “society of visible saints” in an era of reforms and perceived religious backsliding. Their grievances also included the widespread adoption of the halfway covenant in the early 1700s, which allowed for infant baptism, and theologies of salvation by good works rather than justification by faith alone.

The movement is first attested in New London, Connecticut in 1742, with the creation of a Separate Society formed on March 6, 1743. This was followed by the creation of Separate churches in Canterbury (1744), Mansfield (1745), and Plainfield (1746), and later in North Stonington, South Killingly, Windham, Preston, Norwich, Enfield, Wethersfield and Middletown, and New Milford.

While these churches met in mutual council for special occasions such as ordinations and disciplinary hearings, they were not united into an official Strict Church denomination until 1781, when the first Strict Congregational Convention was held at Killingly, CT on September 19. At this meeting, members resolved “that we will have a General Meeting of our several Churches, by Delegation, annually on the Third Wednesday of September… In order to maintain Fellowship and Union among the Churches, and for the Assistance of each other, in some difficult Cases.”

The collections below comprise the records of the Strict Congregational Convention of Connecticut, created after this initial 1781 meeting and continuing until 1811. They primarily consist of annual convention proceedings, but also include correspondence between individual churches and the Convention, disciplinary proceedings, and theological essays. Local churches writing to the convention include Preston, Plainfield, Killingly, Canterbury, Lyme, Canaan, South Groton, North Groton, Waterbury, Stonington, New Milford, Enfield, Montville, Voluntown, and the Second Church at Middletown in Connecticut, and the Presbytery of Morris County, NJ, as well as the Strict Congregational Church in the Oblong. The collection also includes financial records of the Second Strict Congregational Church of Middletown, where Benjamin Graves served as pastor or elder, 1804-1812.

The original manuscripts in this collection are owned by our project partners, the Connecticut Historical Society. Further information about the collection can be found in the CHS catalog.

 

Digital Materials

Convention proceedings, 1773-1784

These records include some of the earliest correspondence and proceedings relating to the Strict Congregational Convention, including the proceedings of conventions subsequent to the Killingly Convention of 1781.

1773 by the North Society of Lyme   church meeting minutes 
1782 September 18     proceedings of the general meeting at Plainfield
1783 September 3 from Paul Parks to Alexander Miller (of Plainfield) letter proposing a general convention in Middletown
1783 September 6 from Alexander Miller to Paul Parks letter with reply to Elder Parks, declining to come to meeting
1783 September 12 from the Strict Church in Killingly to the general meeting at Middletown letter answering meeting invitation in the affirmative and listing delegates
1783 September 26 from "Elder Wright" to the presbytery of Morris County, NJ letter with invitation to join the convention
1783 November 12 from the presbytery of Morris County, NJ to the convention letter with acceptance of request to join the convention
1783 September 17     proceedings of the general meeting at Middletown
1784 September 15     proceedings of the general meeting at Middletown
1784 September 15     proceedings of the general meeting at Middletown

 

Convention proceedings, 1784-1789

These records consist primarily of convention proceedings, and also include the official articles of confederation, letters to the convention from Strict Churches in New Medford and the Oblong, and a letter of recommendation.

1784 November 17     "Articles of Confederation of Strict Congregational Churches"
1784 October 23 from Alex Miller (Plainfield) to Elder Paul Park letter with theological essay
1784 November 17     proceedings of the general meeting at Lyme
1785 September 21     articles of the convention
1786 September 20     proceedings of the general meeting at North Groton
1787 September 19     proceedings of the general meeting at Middletown
1788 August 30 from the Strict Church in New Medford to the general meeting (September 1788) letter requesting a visit from church elders
1788 September 17     proceedings of the general meeting at Canterbury
1789 September 5 by "Elder Young"   letter of recommendation for William Noah Halock
1789 September 10 by the Strict Church in Oblong   letter requesting to join the convention

 

Convention proceedings, 1789-1792

These records consist primarily of convention proceedings, and also include letters to the convention from Strict Churches in the Oblong, New Millford, and Killingly, as well as a subscriber list for the support of an unidentified minister.

1789 September 10 from the Strict Church in Oblong   letter with a request to the convention
1789 September 16     proceedings of the general meeting at Middletown
1790 August 22 from the Church at New Millford   letter with request to review the appointment of a deacon
1790 September 15     proceedings of the convention at Canaan
1790 September 15     proceedings of the convention at Canaan, including objections to infant baptism
1790 November 2     list of subscribers for ministry fund
1790 September 15     proceedings of the convention at Canaan
1791 September 21     proceedings of the convention at Lyme
1791 September 21     proceedings of the convention at Lyme
1792 September 1 from the Strict Church in Killingly to Rev. Paul Parks letter regarding membership of the convention

 

Convention proceedings, 1792-1799

These records consist primarily of convention proceedings, and also include letters between the convention and Strict Churches in New Millford and Middletown, as well as a polemical essay on infant baptism.

1792 September 19     proceedings of the convention at Stonington
1793 September 10     proceedings of the convention at Middletown, including the opinion of the convention on discipline
1794 September 18     proceedings of convention at Lyme
1794 September 17     advice to the Lyme Church (first address of the convention)
1795 September 17     proceedings of the convention at Preston
1795 September 18     polemical essay on infant baptism and other matters
1796 March 31 by the Church in New Millford   meeting minutes regarding the ordination of Daniel Hine
1798 September 19     proceedings of the convention at Middletown
1798 September 20 from the convention to the Second Church of Middletown letter requesting affiliation status
1799 September 18     proceedings of the convention at Middletown

 

Convention proceedings, 1799-1803

These records consist primarily of convention proceedings, and also include individual church records from Strict Churches in Killingly and Middletown. Also included is a small book of church records from Lyme, CT owned by pastor Benjamin Graves.

1799 September 19 by Daniel Brown (on behalf of the convention at Middletown) to unidentified church letter with exhortation to attend the annual convention
1799 September 19     "advice of the 6th convention on the case of Lyme"
1800 May 7 by various church members to the Strict Church in Killingly letter with request to settle dispute
1800 September 11 from John Cole and Jacob Spalding to the Strict Church in Killingly letter with notification of meeting
1801 September 17     proceedings of the convention at Preston
1801 by Benjamin Graves   "an extract of records from Lyme book 1801"; includes covenant and member lists
1802 January 14 by the Strict Church in Middletown   church meeting minutes
1802 September 15     proceedings of the convention at Westfield in Middletown
1803 June 20     letter requesting reconciliation at the Strict Church in Middletown
1803 August 25 by the Second Strict Church of Middletown   excommunication of several members

 

Convention proceedings, 1803-1807

These records consist primarily of convention proceedings, and also include correspondence between the convention and the Baptist Church of Christ in Montville, as well as individual church records from the Strict Church in Middletown.

1803     letters to and from the convention [partial]
1803 August 26 from Thomas Johnson (and others) to the South Meetinghouse in Middletown letter with call for an advisory council
1804 October 4     proceedings of the convention at Middletown
1805 July 9     proceedings of the convention at Middletown
1805 October 9      proceedings of the convention at Middletown
1806 September 10     proceedings of the convention at Lyme
1806 September 10     proceedings of the convention at Lyme
1807 February 16 by the Second Strict Church in Middletown   meeting minutes regarding the disciplinary case of Thomas Johnson
1807 September 9     proceedings of the convention at Preston
1807 September 9 from the Baptist Church of Christ in Montville to the convention at Preston letter agreeing to join the convention and to send delegates

 

Convention proceedings, 1808-1811

These records consist primarily of convention proceedings, and also include correspondence between the convention and churches in Montville, Lyme, and Canterbury. Also included is a list of financial subscribers for support of the Rev. Benjamin Graves.

undated     list of rate payers and monetary contributions
1808 September 14     proceedings of the convention at Middletown
1808 September 26 by the Second Strict Congregation Society   agreement to support Rev. Benjamin Graves with subscriber list
1809 September 14     proceedings of the convention at Stonington
1810 September 8 from the Church of Christ at Montville to convention at Lyme letter calling for the ordination of David Street
1810 September 10     proceedings of the convention at Lyme
1811 August 12 from Rev. Asa Wilcox (of the Baptist Church in Lyme) to the convention at Middletown (September 1811) letter objecting to the ordination of Robert Fergo
1811 September 11 from the Montville Church to the convention at Middletown  letter protesting disciplinary proceedings against the church
1811 September 11     proceedings of the convention at Middletown
1811 September 12 from the convention at Middletown to the Baptist Church in Lyme (care of Rev. Asa Wilcox) letter regarding the ordination of Rev. Robert Fergo
1811 September     list of subscribers
undated from the Strict Church in Canterbury to the convention at Canaan letter requesting permission to ordain member John H. Stevens

 

Special Thanks

This digital resource has been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this resource do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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